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Invisible People: Stories of Courage and Hope by Harsh Mander

How often do we look at the underprivileged with eyes of empathy–those who have no roof over their heads, those who lost everything they had in a twist of fate, or those whose lives were wrecked by glaring actions of injustice. We see them often, cross paths with them, yet somehow manage to look right through them. Even if we do stop to notice them, seldom do we put ourselves in their shoes, or think of their struggles and pain. It’s almost as if they are invisible. Social activist-turned-author Harsh Mander, through his collection of short stories, manages to draw our attention to just that–the struggles, victories and heartbreaks of these ‘invisible’ people.

Invisible People: Stories of Courage and Hope is an aptly titled collection of stories delving into the lives of 12 people–those who see ahead of them a shaky path of hardships and pain, some who end up on the wrong side of the law, and those who were simply targeted because of their beliefs. Mander’s words manage to inspire empathy in the reader. His writing effortlessly reflects his connection and experience with the subject of social development.

The book is filled with moving, thought-provoking stories, out of which a few stand out because of the victim’s admirable courage in the face of extreme injustice. The life of Bibi Khatoon in Nine Long Years is heart-rending, while Journey to Jail is all about second chances and redemption. Each story is drawn on the real-life canvas of a lesser known India, and each has a distinct ending.  

While going through these real-life stories of adversity and struggle, the reader might wonder why Mander wrote a book specifically about the less-privileged. Perhaps, the poem recited by a homeless boy to the author holds an answer to this.

In these streets of struggle
If only there was someone of our own.
In the arms of every night
If only there was waiting the light of dawn.

The contempt the world has for us
Even this we have drunk like nectar.
Every moment of pain
We have lived away with play and laughter
Forget about life
Even every dream is for us a stranger
In these streets of struggle
If only there was someone of our own

All in all, Invisible People: Stories of Courage and Hope is an homage to ordinary people with extraordinary courage. It is as much a celebration of their undefeated spirit, as it is a tale of their struggle and suffering. For this reason and many others, Mander’s book is a must-read. 

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